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Prison officers threatened during by violent hospital patient

A prisoner who told a prison officer he would cut “chunks out of her cheeks” and told her colleague he would have his wife and children raped has been sentenced to three and half years in prison.

At Galway Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Brian O’Callaghan described the behaviour of Michael Cleary (34) at University Hospital Galway over a number days in October 2013 as “continuous, aggressive and violent”.

Cleary, with an address at Lough Mask Road, Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, pleaded guilty to one count of threatening to kill or cause serious harm to a female prison officer on October 20, 2013 and a further count of threatening to kill or cause serious harm to a male colleague, on October 15, 2013.

Both officers were on duty in the hospital ward, where Cleary was receiving treatment for TB.

Garda Andrew O’Hara told the court Cleary said to one of the officers he would “burn down his house and torture and rape his wife and children”.

Cleary also told the officer his face would be slashed open in Castlerea Prison and that his wish was to transmit TB to the officer.

Garda O’Hara said Cleary also bit the officer on the arm.

“He said he had never experienced such pain before”, the garda added.

Cleary also said he prayed the officer would die in a car crash.

The court heard that when this threat was put to him interview, Cleary said that would make him laugh. Over a number of days, Cleary subjected the female officer to aggressive behaviour and numerous threats of violence.

Garda O’Hara said Cleary told the officer he was going to “get a carving knife and cut chunks out of her face”.

As he was being taken for a cigarette, Cleary told the woman he would get four lads in a stolen car to wait outside for her.

Garda O’Hara said the officer did not know if this was true and was accompanied to her car by a colleague that night.

Due to her level of concern, she stayed in Galway that night and did not return to her home, the court heard.

On another occasion, Cleary told the officer he was going to break her teeth and smash her face.

He also lunged at the officer and attempted to assault her.

Garda O’Hara said: “He kept shouting he was going to break her teeth and bite the smirk of her face”.

In her victim statement, the prison officer said the Cleary’s violent and aggressive behaviour has affected her quality of life.

She said feels “ill at ease”, not safe and has become introverted.

The threats made it impossible for her to continue to work in Castlerea Prison and she requested a transfer.

Garda O’Hara said the other prison officer declined to make a statement and is trying to put the incident behind him.

Cleary had 108 criminal convictions, 95 of which were committed prior to the 2013 offences. These include convictions for theft, criminal damage and assault. He is currently serving a separate prison sentence for false imprisonment.

The court heard Cleary was due to be sentenced in January 2017 for the threats against the prison officers, but absconded to England.

Defence counsel, Garry McDonald BL, told the court he had been instructed to apologise to the victims. Cleary had attempted to apologise to the officers through their colleagues. At the time of the incident, Cleary had been remanded in custody but was brought to hospital after being diagnosed with TB.

“At the time, he had serious difficulties with drugs and alcohol, more so drugs and had lost his son prior to this,” he added.

Counsel said that language and threats used by his client were “horrendous” and something no person should be subjected to at their place of work.

“What he said to them was totally uncalled for,” counsel said.

Judge O’Callaghan said the two victims were not the only victims, as other people in the hospital had to witness Cleary’s “appalling conduct”.

The judge said it had been suggested the accused’s behaviour occurred while he was coming down off recreational drugs and taking medication for TB.

However, Judge O’Callaghan said the court is proceeding on the basis there is no evidence to support this. He said the two victims were subjected to prolonged aggression and threats.

It was an aggravating factor that the threats were made to two good standing members of the Irish Prison Services.

“His actions were wholly and completely unprovoked,” he added.

The judge said the threats against the female officer were “particularly aggressive and very threatening with very worrying undertones involved from her point of view”.

He said there was no evidence of rehabilitation, but the accused entered an early guilty plea.

Judge O’Callaghan imposed sentences of three and half years and two years to be served concurrently.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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